Sunday February 14th, 2016 6:25PM

Slate of games kick off 2012 season this week for area teams

By staff
There may be a few dress rehearsals left for area programs, but the stage is already set this week for the start of the high school football season.

Things kick off on Friday -- and what better way to get the 2012 campaign going than with a rivalry?

Over the past few years, the "Battle of Oakwood" has proven one of the most entertaining contests of the season, with south Hall foes Johnson and West Hall striving to outdo the other.

The latest installment promises plenty more thrills and adds yet another twist, as both teams enter the showdown with new head coaches. The game will be aired live on WDUN 102.9 FM, beginning with a tailgate show at 7 p.m -- in the meantime, get prepared for the 2012 season by clicking here to read our 2012 season preview.

Both Johnson's Jason Roquemore and West Hall's Tony Lotti are focused on rejuvenating programs that have struggled in recent seasons. (You can watch video interviews with each coach by clicking here). Each has done his best to fire the beliefs of his players and spark a new determination for the Knights and Spartans, respectively, and while preseason workouts and positive attitudes are important building blocks, each also knows how big an early season win would be for maintaining forward momentum.

The two Hall County rivals won't be the only area teams battling it out this weekend, as East Hall and Dawson County will begin Region 7-AAA play, while Fannin County and North Gwinnett will open with non-region foes in 2012.

East Hall will travel to Dawson County on Friday in a game that is sure to have the ear of every team in 7-AAA. The Tigers feature a plethora of seniors and experience, while East Hall is hoping to take another step forward after posting their best mark since 2006. Both teams went 5-5 in 2011.

Fannin County will play host to Murphy, N.C., on Friday night in Blue Ridge. The Rebels are starting their first full season under head coach Greg Chambers -- who took over for Clark Drennan midway through 2011. The Rebels broke a five-year winning streak in 2011 and hope to get back on track after moving up in classification -- from Region 8-AA to 7-AAA -- during the offseason.

One area program will also get going on Saturday, as North Gwinnett will head to Atlanta to face Colquitt County in the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome.

The Bulldogs are facing a lot of unknowns heading into the season, as they are replacing a number of starters on both sides of the ball -- as well as most of the coaching staff. Yet head coach Bob Sphire has not won fewer than 10 games since taking over the program in 2006, and expectations remain high around the program.

The game will be a rematch of last year's Class AAAAA second round contest that saw Colquitt win 17-7 en route to a state semifinal appearance.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The contests are but a taste of what is to come next week, when most of the rest of the state commences the 2012 campaign. We're certainly looking forward to the appetizer.
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